1. Best CD player: Cambridge Audio 851C
Don’t write off ye olde disc players just yet. paradoxically London based hi-fi giant Cambridge Audio has just launched the 851c, and it does more than make your CDs sound great. any device with a digital output can plug in and benefit from the unit’s DAC and state-of-the art“upconversion” tech.
Price: £1,200 | Cambridgeaudio.co.uk
2. Best Amp: Cyrus 6 DAC
A cracking amplifier made in Cambridge that brings true audiophile sound to your connected devices. With a high-quality digital to analogue convertor (DAC) tucked inside its compact chassis, the 6 DAC will accept up to five digital sources including USB. it’s like the phone box in which Clark Kent turns into superman, but for laptops, TVs, set-top boxes and all your digital music files.
Price: £900 | Cyrus.co.uk
3. Best Custom fit in-ear monitor: ACS T1
Tailor-made, perfect-fit earphones are no longer the preserve of middle-aged rock icons on Jools Holland’s show. top British bespoke manufacturer ACS has a range of custom-fits for serious music lovers such as you, sir, including its new flagship, the triple-driver t1. With superior sound quality to conventional earphones, once you’ve tried a bespoke product, there’s no going back, even though they do tend to look rather alarming when not in your lugs.
Price: £649 I Hearingprotection.com
4. Best Wireless speaker: Dynaudio Xeo 5
As well as TV crime dramas, Denmark is big on high-quality speakers and Dynaudio is their top dog – a Great dane, if you will. its latest creation is a genuinely hi-fi quality, wireless, active speaker. A transmitter beams the sounds from your source; the XEO 5 does the rest. simple, elegant and innovative; wireless sound just went high end.
Price: £2,635 | Dynaudio.com
5. Best AirPlay system: TEAC CR-H700
Like Denon’s Ceol, this is a complete music solution at an incredibly enticing price. For your dosh you get a CD player, 40 watts of quality amplification, an FM/DAB radio and, of course, the ability to play tunes direct from any iOS device or any computer running iTunes. Like to rock it more old school? You can even connect a turntable via the built-in phono stage.
Price: £449 | teac.co.uk
6. Best iDock: Pure Digital i20
Getting the best sound out of your iWhatever involves connecting to a “proper” hi-fi rather than an all-in-one docking system. to that end, Pure’s i20 plumbs straight into the iPod or iPhone’s raw digital data using a high-quality dac to give a tangible boost to the sound. it also boasts a digital output so you can upgrade the audio further using something like the Cyrus 6 DAC or Cambridge Audio’s Dacmagic 100.
Price: £75 I Pure.com
7. Best for serious sequencing: Steinberg Cubase 6.5
Like GarageBand with very ornate knobs on, this ups the ante for the serious artist, offering high-end multi-track recording, arranging and editing options as part of a digital audio workstation (DAW). Files of all kinds can be converted to the Red Book standard to burn to CD, or converted to MP3 for web publishing.
As used by: Zombie Nation I Price: £508 I Steinberg.net
8. Best for the old-school DJ: Alien and Heath Xone:42
The Xone series can be seen beneath the hands of the world’s top party-starters. The 42 is great value and enables you to mash up vinyl, CD and MP3 with ease, while a USB socket means you can playback from a laptop, record your mixes and interface with music software. The four-channel device is built to pro standards and will endure from the bedroom to the stage.
As used by: Andy C | Price: £700 | Allen-heath.com
9. Best for the beginner: GarageBand
Apple’s streamlined Logic makes it easy for anyone with a brain and hands to create professional-sounding tunes. With access to a range of instruments and quality multi-track arranging that would have cost thousands of pounds a decade ago, it’s inspired a generation of bedroom musicians.
As used by: Rihanna on Umbrella | Price: £10.49 OS X, £2.99 iOS | Apple.com/uk
10. Best for guitarists: Line 6 Pod HD
The kidney-shaped Pod HD amp modeller gives guitarists and other creatively minded musician’s access to 22 classic amplifier tones as well as 100 effects including some classic reverbs. It’s also a recording tool; you can connect your Pod to your PC and record at up to 24-bit resolution.
As used by: Johnny Marr | Price: £350 I Line6.com
11. Best for digital DJs: Rane Serato Scratch Live
A complete solution for DJing with digital, Serato Scratch Live lets you take your MP3s out clubbing, making layering, cueing and warping sounds so easy, even the drunkest of DJs can do it. Best of all, you can scratch and manipulate your MP3s on external devices including – with Rane’s genius 12-inch vinyl controllers – standard decks.
As used by: Afrika Bambaataa | Price: £300 I Serato.com/
12. Best for live recording: Tascam iM2W
The iM2 plugs into the dock connector of your iOS device, turning it into a stereo recorder with a brace of high-quality condenser microphones. You can record at CD standard, and with Tascam’s audio expertise and recording levels that go up to 11, you can capture gigs as well as interviewees yapping.
As used by: dodgy types at the back of gigs I Price: £85 I Tascam.com